St. Joseph, Summit of Holiness
One Parent's Perspective
by Chris Klamer
copyright 1999,used with permission
As parents, we are the first, most important educators of our children. We help them build connections...from the haven of their homes to the hurry of the world, from the struggles of their souls to the peace of the Heavenly Kingdom. Perhaps you never looked at it quite this way. By coupling our faith with the elements of our day-to-day lives, we root our children in true self-esteem. We give them identity as Catholics and children of God. The celebration of the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st, also known to some as May Day, gives parents around the world an excellent opportunity. It is an opportunity to imbue our values through tradition and history. Moreover, it's a chance to point out new connections, parallels between their lives as members in the body of their families and their roles as members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
St. Joseph was the God-chosen leader of the Holy Family, just as your children's father was given authority over your family. But Jesus was no ordinary child, so how can we compare the vocation of St. Joseph to ours? True, Jesus was fully human and fully divine, mysteriously Incarnate. Yet, like our ordinary children, He drew so much of His formation from the leadership of His earthly father. Virtue, integrity and work ethic -- vital nourishment for a soul's healthy growth to adulthood -- were provided by St. Joseph's daily example.
And what of our example? Have we avoided uttering the phrase, "do as I say and not as I do?" St. Joseph, in thought, word and deed, provided all that was needed for Jesus to "grow in grace and wisdom." St. Joseph, second only to the Blessed Virgin Mary in strength of faith, received his leadership of the Holy Family as a direct assignment from God the Father. And he was "righteous" in the administration of his vocation (Matthew 1:18). Do we provide examples of holy God-given authority and leadership like St. Joseph?
If you answered 'yes' to these questions I've asked, you undoubtedly have a real personal knowledge of St. Joseph, and, most likely the nature of his title evoked on this feast day,"the Worker." But for many of us, the essence of this humble carpenter seems to elude us. But how can we emulate, you say of Joseph's hidden life, that which we do not know? Perhaps a reacquaintance is in order. If Joseph was upright in his sovereignty, I doubt he was King of the Recliner (much less the remote)!
So important to us is the fidelity of St. Joseph to his vocation, that popes have issued declarations and exhortations to enrich our knowledge of him. As a matter of fact, May Day was a pagan celebration that is now embraced by communists. Pope Leo XIII chose this day to invoke St. Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church in order to counter this festival. His did so with the encyclical Quamquam Pluries in 1889. On the centenary of this occasion, in 1989, Pope John Paul II issued an apostolic exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer, to encourage us in our most difficult task of aspiring to St. Joseph's virtues. Their timing with these documents was no coincidence - only God-incidence. May 1st, a day held widely as a celebration of the anything-goes and if-it-feels-good-do-it attitudes, now holds the treasure of Heaven - the allure of the holy rather than the temporal.
The second week of April our family begins an exploration of St. Joseph, and the attributes that fathers and families should hold dear. We end our journey on May Day. For the homeschooling (or the simply curious) I have prepared a unit study and will forward it on request. But you need not be homeschooling to benefit from this time of study. Discussing about the origins of this festival and our mission to defend the faith with our lives will strengthen our Catholic roots. Talk about how Joseph must have been as a father. Visit, if only in your imaginations, the Holy Family as they complete their daily routine. Explore the issues of work and fair wage. Older children can dive further in career exploration. Younger children can delight themselves with an old fashioned Maypole Ceremony. Add Catholic flourishes to all your activities and discussions (like ending the ceremony with a May Crowning). Even the smallest one will find joy in 'Jesus's Daddy.' Every connection made to our faith gives us mortar to seal the gap from the dark of this world to the light of Christ...like St. Joseph did.
And isn't that our real mission as parents?